A step toward solving the mystery of memory

University gets $5 million for brain research

$5 million gift from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation will help scientists and physicians at the School of Medicine unlock the mysteries of the aging brain and why some people lose memory as they grow older.

The foundation’s gift will create the Evelyn F. McKnight Center for Age-Related Memory Loss, which could one day become a leading center of research into the causes and treatment of age-related disorders of the brain.

“ We are grateful to the McKnight Brain Research Foundation for this generous gift that will significantly enhance our progress toward understanding and alleviating the age-related changes in memory and brain function,” says John G. Clarkson, senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

The gift from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation will enable the School of Medicine to recruit a world-class cognitive neuroscientist who will lead a team of scientists, researchers, and clinicians in exploring not only normal memory changes that happen with age, but the cognitive defects produced by various brain-related diseases.

“ We are delighted to continue our long association with the University of Miami School of Medicine as together we lead the way in medical research focused on the brain,” says J. Lee Dockery, a trustee of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation. “The trustees of the foundation are committed to fulfilling the wishes of Mrs. McKnight by promoting research into the fundamental mechanisms that underlie the neurobiology of memory, as it relates to age-related memory loss and the toll it takes on our aging population.”

That population is growing daily: By the year 2030 it is estimated that nearly 25 percent of Americans will be 65 or older, with millions suffering some form of memory loss.

The gift will stimulate an already active collaboration between clinical research and basic neurosciences. The School of Medicine’s Center for Cognitive Neurosciences takes a multi-departmental approach to studying the aging brain. The award also will be used to present local, regional, and international workshops on the brain for educational and research purposes.

Founded in 1999, the McKnight Brain Research Foundation supports research toward the understanding of memory and the specific influences of the natural aging process. Evelyn McKnight, who was a nurse, and her husband, William, were interested in the effects of aging on memory. William McKnight was chairman of the board of the 3M Corp. for 59 years before his death in 1979. Evelyn McKnight continued to support his interest in brain research and memory loss until her death in 1999. Their commitment continues through the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.